Is the iPhone 5 a Significant Upgrade Over the iPhone 4S?

THIS QUESTION WAS ON MY MIND the other day, as I noticed more people ordering iPhone 5’s and ditching their iPhone 4S or older. I personally have to wait another year as I’m on a 2 year contract (aren’t most people on a 2-year contract?).

So, is the iPhone 5 really a worthy upgrade over the previous iPhone 4S or the iPhone 4?

If we compare the iPhone 5 with its new and improved features, and not try to get too technical about it…

Weight and Design

The iPhone 5 is hailed by Apple as being the lightest iPhone, ever, and the thinnest.

Admitedly, the iPhone 5 is an elegant and aesthetic improvement over previous incarnations of the iPhone.

Screen Size

Its longer size makes it finally suitable for true HD at 16:9, and you get an extra row of Apps.

Apple is touting its Retina Display, but the iPhone 4 and 4S also feature a Retina Display.


I’m not seeing any vast improvements with regards to wireless and WI-FI connectivity, although the iPhone 5 now broadcasts in 2.4ghz and 5ghz WI-FI.

Processor Speed

The iPhone 5 has the improved A6 chip and iOS6, which supposedly makes it 2x faster than an iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4S has the A5 chip, and the iPhone 4 has the A4 chip.


The iPhone 5 comes with iOS6 already installed. But, I was able to download the new operating system for my iPhone 4S and thus taking advantage of the new OS features that iPhone 5 has. Though, with the new A6 chip I’m sure the iPhone 5 will be much faster.

Camera and Video

The iPhone 5 has an 8 megapixel camera, the same as the iPhone 4S. The iPhone 4 has a 5 megapixel camera so this would be a significant upgrade for iPhone 4 users.

Looking at the camera and video specs on the Apple website, I didn’t see any significant change (if any). But with iOS6 the Camera App was improved with Panorama capability. But again, this is something that comes with iOS6 and can easily be added to the iPhone 4S with the software upgrade.


Basically, no change here with iPhone’s “intelligent assistant”, although Apple did mention something about improvements to Siri, but that can be experienced with iPhone 4S as well. iPhone 4 users will be delighted to finally take advantage of Siri technology, so for them that is a major upgrade.

New Connector!

iPhone 5’s new Lightning Connector is an extreme change over the previous 30-pin connector in the iPhone 4 and 4S. To me this is significantly bad design, as people will now have to change all the peripheral devices somehow. And although there is an adaptor for this, I simply think the whole idea is pretty lame.

The Bottom Line

For iPhone 4 users, upgrading from an iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5 would be a significant upgrade and worthy of the transition to a new phone.

From an iPhone 4S to an iPhone 5, however (at least in my humble opinion) isn’t a significant upgrade (and not one to break a 2 year contract over).

I personally am going to wait until an iPhone 5S (or better) comes along, which then would be a significant improvement over my iPhone 4S. But for now, I’m quite happy with my current iPhone.


Apple’s iPhone comparison page

iPhone 5 is Good, But Note Worth the Hype



Carlos Rull

Carlos Rull is a musician living in the San Diego area. His interests include Yoga, Eastern Philosophy, Zen Buddhism, and Gardening. He plays drums, piano, and composes New Age & Ambient music, and his albums are available on iTunes and

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